Happy Hogmanay!

Quickie Review: A Most Scandalous Proposal by Ashlyn Macamara

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: March 2013
Publisher: Ballantine (Random House)
Length: 325 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Received at RT, no idea where or when.

I'm not 100% certain this is a debut novel, but I *think* it is. If so, it's a fairly good one. A slightly better than average historical romance with strong, if entirely conventional, characters. I guess the title should have clued me in, since it's a throwaway one, but...eh.

Normally, I'm ALL ABOUT friends to lovers stories. Those are my catnip. Seriously. But this one just didn't really click for me. I really wanted more emotion, especially considering the two main characters have known each other forever. With that kind of shared history, there should be shared emotion, shared jokes, etc.

The "villain" isn't very villainous, just a dick, and there's a lot of confusing stuff about a $5000 bet/debt thing that I really just didn't understand. It could definitely have been more clear. There's a secondary romance, too, which felt like it took up far too much page time that could have been spent fleshing out the relationship between our hero and heroine.

There's a lot of potential here. The characters are mostly decent, the plot is ok. The writing is ok. What's missing is a strong voice, atmosphere, and emotion. Hopefully those will come with time.

The Blurb:
After watching her beloved sister Sophia pine over the ton’s Golden Boy for years, Miss Julia St. Claire has foresworn love and put herself firmly on the shelf. Unfortunately, her social-climbing mother and debt-ridden father have other ideas, and jump at the chance to marry Julia off to the newly-named Earl of Clivesden…the man of Sophia’s dreams.

Since resigning his Cavalry commission, Benedict Revelstoke has spent his time in London avoiding the marriage mart. But when he discovers that the Earl of Clivesden has set Julia in his sights, Benedict tries to protect his childhood best friend from the man’s advances—only to discover more than friendship driving his desire to defend her. He surprises them both with the force of his feelings, but when she refuses him and her father announces her betrothal, he fears he’s lost her forever—until Julia approaches him with a shocking scheme that will ruin her for all respectable society…

…and lead them into an exquisite world of forbidden pleasures


Ending the Malevolent Year on a Sour Note

I'm not sure 2017 will be any better than 2016, but I really haven't had the best year. Not only the horrible election results and massive loss of childhood idols, but just everything. Even this blog was neglected for months at a time while I dealt with real life obligations.

I was hopeful to end on a high note, but alas: news this week that Simon and Schuster is not only publishing a horrific internet troll, but also giving him a nice advance. There are calls for boycotting S&S and calls for not buying his specific book, but (as you'll notice by my not naming him) I think all that's doing is giving him publicity. And we all know that any publicity is good publicity. Or so it seems. So while I appreciate the outrage and sentiment, I won't be joining in the boycott. It will only hurt S&S authors, some of whom are Own Voices authors or have messages directly countering the crapfest that book is going to be. Rest assured, however, that our community of book people aren't the target audience for that hate filled garbage anyway, so we wouldn't be buying it. My only guess is that S&S are counting on the Trump voters to buy it. The only boycott I would like to see is one by bookstores refusing to carry it so he never earns out his advance and isn't offered another contract.

 Oh, and All Romance ebooks is closing with next to no notice, taking many readers' libraries and authors' royalties with it. This is a site that most people really liked and trusted. To see them steal from readers and authors like this is just so disheartening. I'm far too lazy to be anything but an Amazon girl, but this has reminded me that I really do need to figure out how to save my library somewhere. Although, truth be told, I've moved back to print for all but e-exclusives or novellas etc. I refuse to pay full print price for most of the Big 5 books, which, yes, was their strategy by pricing that way, but ... oh well.

The only bright spot for me is that I finally found a firm, confirmed release date for Elizabeth Peters's final book (finished by her friend, Joan Hess, after Peters passed away during revisions).  The Painted Queen comes out in hardcover and ebook on July 25th. I've heard rumblings that this takes place between Falcon at the Portal and He Shall Thunder in the Sky, but I haven't been able to confirm that. If so, it's an exciting choice, as those years are some of the most emotionally fraught of the series. If you haven't read the Amelia Peabody series yet, it begins with the Crocodile on the Sandbank. The books are pricey, but it's from the late 70s. There are plenty of used copies floating out there.

On an even more optimistic note *knocks on wood* it appears that I've reclaimed the lost blogging mojo at least temporarily. This post should bring me level with last year's post total, and I still have two more posts to go! Woohoo! I've missed this little blog, even when I just couldn't find anything to say.

Review: The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries (2015)

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: August 2015
Publisher: Pocket
Length: 373 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Received for free at RT16 Convention

The Art of Sinning takes place within the expanded circle of characters from Jeffries' last series of novels, but is delightfully different. The hero is an American, an artist, and a widower—although that last part is a bit of a secret to all of his distant English relatives. The heroine is extremely tall, aristocratic, outspoken, and collects street cant for her slang dictionaries.

 The set up is a bit unusual, too, because there are multiple motivations going on: Jeremy Keane wants Yvette to model for his new painting. Yvette's brother wants a portrait done to help "sell" his sister's charms to potential suitors. Keane doesn't usually paint portraits, which leads to him scheming with Yvette to do TWO paintings (keeping the second a secret) in exchange for helping her with a potentially dangerous quest of her own. Complicated...and that's just the first few chapters.


Review: Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: March 2006
Publisher: Berkley Sensation (Penguin)
Length: 280 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: No idea, although my copy is used. Likely from a library book sale.

I'm not sure why I've never glommed Loretta Chase's books, but it just never happened. So, consequently, there's still a lot of backlist to explore. Digging (literally) through my piles of books in search of something to read, I discovered this slender novel. The spine was partially ripped, the pages yellowed. I had, somehow, never read it. I didn't even realize I owned it.

I'm on the 'love' side of the Lord of Scoundrels debate. I adore that book. Others  I've read by Chase were more forgettable. This kind of falls in the middle: cute, well done, but not amazing.


Review: Wicked in Your Arms by Sophie Jordan

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: August 2011
Publisher: Avon
Length: 355 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Received from the author at an RT convention (no idea which one)

I will be the first to say that this book should not work. It should be the silliest thing on the darn planet. It's a ridiculous fairy tale with a ridiculous plot that's not very suspenseful at all. But darn it, I read the entire thing in one sitting. I'm still not sure what happened.


Review: Flirting with Fire by Kate Meader

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: April 2015
Publisher: Pocket (Simon and Schuster)
Length: 376 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: won as a prize at RT15 (free courtesy of the author)

My mission for the latter half of 2016 was to a) get back to reading and b) get back to blogging while c) reading books mostly from my TBR. While I managed to read, my blogging has been a bit lackluster. I'm happy to report, though, that I've mostly been able to stick with books that are already in my house (except for a few, rare auto-buy authors). My husband is ecstatic to see the pile get whittled even a little bit.

I'm a character-centric reader rather than a plot driven one, but one thing that I've been missing, that's been lost as imprints and publishers have consolidated over the last few years, is a wide variety of strong, distinct voices in romance. In many, many cases, *cough Avon cough* authors are "house-styled" into all sounding the same. Not the case with Kate Meader. Wowza does she have a strong, edgy voice...and this series is the perfect vehicle for it. Chicago firemen. A big, rowdy family. Enthusiastic sex. I broke my own rule for this series and bought the 3rd book (in e, so Hubs didn't see it)  that wasn't in my TBR so I could finish it out. It's that good.


Review: The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

Format: mass market
Pub Date: October 2016
Publisher: Avon
Length: 361 pages
POV: 3rd
FTC: Purchased myself

The Trouble with Mistletoe is very much a holiday novel, both in the outward trappings of Christmas as well as the notion of forgiveness and an open heart.

For those unfamiliar with Jill Shalvis, she writes funny, sexy contemporaries that are packaged a bit like Debbie Macomber or Silhouette Special Editions, but are in no way similar. Don't be fooled. Her men (and women) are very much contemporary, so expect some bad language and steam. (Not really fond of her covers, although these are better than the headless torsos with random animals... Anyhoo...moving on.)


Review: Wild Darkness by Lauren Dane

Format: Mass Market paperback
Pub Date: November 2013
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Length: 277 plus glossary
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Received for free at an RT Convention.

Given my current head space post-election, this was probably THE WORST book to read. Really. It's a paranormal romance, sorta, set in the middle of a political war where the US government is considering trying to strip anyone with paranormal characteristics of their citizenship and shipping them off to camps or exterminating them. Hate crimes and bigotry abound.

Yeah. Definitely the wrong book for right now, but I finished it anyway.

This is apparently part of a series, and although I've read plenty of other Lauren Dane books, I hadn't stumbled across these before. The series part is a tad important, because this book drops you pretty much in the middle of everything: political and civil unrest, relationships, etc. The backstory is pretty thin, so it feels like you've missed a bunch of set up. Because you have.

Another weird thing about the book is that the romance is secondary and almost-but-not-quite-fated-mate fast. I mean, we're told the two main characters have known each other awhile, but there is so little page time devoted to the relationship that it just feels odd. Also, the conflict is completely external in the book, so the relationship goes from zero to married by midway through the book. Which is, well, weird.


Review: The Seduction of Scandal by Cathy Maxwell

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: Sept 2011
Publisher: Avon
Length: 375 pages
POV: 3rd
FTC: Not sure if I paid for it or not, but from RT12 and signed by the author

I used to read Cathy Maxwell all of the time, but she's fallen off of my reading radar in the last several years.

This is a book that could have been excellent. I'd have loved it to either have a grittier take on the highwayman or a humorous take on the whole highwayman/reverend dichotomy. Alas, it does neither, and leaves itself to dwell in the land of Avon Homogeneity.


TBR Challenge Review: Baby, It's Cold Outside

Format: mass market
Pub Date: November 2014
Publisher: Pocket
Length: 534 pages
POV: Various (including 1 first, past and 1 first, present)
FTC: Received for free from an RT convention

I'm finally digging into my RT Convention TBR again, and this time, I pulled out a holiday book just in time for...the holidays (and the TBR challenge)! (This never happens).

This one is a BIG anthology filled with contemporary romance novellas. Some by authors I've read before, some by new-to-me authors. And as with most anthologies, some were better than others.

Baby, It's Cold Outside  has five stories by five different authors: Jennifer Probst, Emma Chase, Kristen Proby, Melody Anne, and Kate Meader. Of those, I've only ever read Kate Meader before.


Review: Under the Lights by Shannon Stacey

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: June 2015
Publisher: Jove/Penguin Random House
Length: 278 pages
POV: 3rd
FTC: Received at an RT Convention

First, let me say that I've been a fan of Shannon Stacy for awhile. At least back to her first title with Carina way back when. 6 years ago? more? I can't remember. Second, I'm not a sports fan. At. All. I'm not bragging about it, just making it clear that I'm reading this book as a non-sports person, so any errors or inside jokes are completely lost on me.

As for Under the Lights? Well...it's short. Almost category length, or at least it felt that way. Which, of course, limits what you're going to see on-page. We get a lot of time in the hero's head. A lot of introspection. We get less time with the heroine, and I'm not really sure if she ever felt fully fleshed out. She's divorced, was cheated on, and now works as a cop in the small town she grew up in. But I never really felt like we got inside her head.

There are a whole host of secondary characters here, some we get significant time with and some we really don't. I know there is sequel bait sprinkled everywhere, but many of the secondary characters were just...boring. I wasn't interested in learning their stories.

Also, to whoever decided that fund-raiser is hyphenated: NO. STOP IT ALREADY. I know Merriam has it hyphenated, but out in the real world, that compound word has no hyphen. NONE. I can't express how much that bugged me. And since the book's premise is based on a fundraiser, it was EVERYWHERE. /end shouting.

Overall, this was a sweet story about a quirky, run down small town, that is quick to read. It's not going to move you greatly, but it might entertain you for a couple of hours.  I've read far better, more emotional books by this author.

My Grade: C+

The Blurb:
They were the golden boys of fall: Stewart Mills High School’s legendary championship winning football team. Fourteen years later, they’re back to relive their glory, save the team—and find themselves again…

Chase Sanders’s life has taken a lot of crazy turns lately. But returning to his hometown to help his old coach keep his high school football team afloat might be the craziest thing to happen to him yet. That is, until he starts falling for the last person he should—Coach’s gorgeous daughter…

Kelly McDonnell learned the hard way that cocky, charming men are nothing but trouble, so she knows Chase is bad news. Still, she can’t resist his smile—or the rest of him. But when his loyalty to her father conflicts with their growing attraction, any hope for a relationship might be blocked before it can even begin… 


Review: City of Light (an Outcast Novel) by Keri Arthur

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: January 2016
Publisher: Signet
Length: 368 pages
FTC: Received for free from RT16, presumably from the author or publisher
POV: 1st, past

To my knowledge, this is my first novel by Keri Arthur. I'm not a huge Urban Fantasy reader, and those that I do read are usually UF with strong romantic elements. This is not that type of book.

As my limited experience with UF has shown me, first books are often the worst in a series, simply because SO MUCH TIME is spent on world building. It's just the nature of the beast that the story will drag a bit. Added to that, I'm sure I'm missing some of the shortcuts I'm supposed to get because I don't read a lot of the genre...there were times I was flat-out-lost in the details of who was supposed to do what. It's a lot to remember. Overall, though, this was different, compelling, and emotional enough to keep me reading.


Tardy TBR Challenge Review: Stitches in Time by Barbara Michaels

Format: mass market
Pub Date: 1995 (this edition, 1999)
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (Harper Collins)
FTC: Purchased used so long ago I can't remember where
Length: 387 pages

This month's TBR Challenge theme was Old School (at least 10 years old), and I had actually read a book in preparation for it. Alas, the reality of having two active boys at home interfered once again and the post never got written. No posts have been written all summer, which is a personal worst for me. But at least I'm still reading. The slump hasn't crept back.

Barbara Michaels holds a special place in my heart. Her books, along with Piers Anthony, were some of the first adult titles I read as a young teen. They were shelved in mystery, but they are actually pretty close to romantic suspense. Some are out and out gothic with all of the creepy little atmospheric touches. She was also Elizabeth Peters, one of my favorite authors of all time, but I have not read a Michaels book in at least 20 years, so revisiting her style under this pseudonym was fun.


Hump Day Classic Movie: The Kid (1921)

Hard to believe considering how much of a movie buff I am, but until recently? I hadn't seen a Charlie Chaplin movie. Weird, I know.

The Kid is considered one of his best movies, and it's easy to see why. Despite the lack of dialogue and the weird, double speed that sometimes occurs in silent films, this movie is hilarious, sweet, heartbreaking, and never dull.

I was also struck by how earthy the movie was. There's unwed motherhood, drinking, violence... Something that in today's Puritanical movie ratings would earn this film at least a PG rating. If you haven't watched it yet, I highly recommend it.


Tardy TBR Challenge Review: Power Play by Sophia Henry

Format: ebook (read as a print ARC)
Pub Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Flirt (Random House)
Length: 236 pages
POV: 1st, past
FTC: print ARC received for free from the publisher during RT16
TW: rape, suicide

Yes, it's me, the tardy TBR person. I always seem to lose track of which Wednesday posts are supposed to be up by, and then life just seems to mess with me. Anyway, this month's theme is something different, and since I DON'T read NA, this one definitely qualifies.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but...there's not enough hockey in this book.

People who know me would be laughing at what I just wrote because I'm not a sports person at all. AT. ALL. I don't even watch the Superbowl, which is the one event even non-sports people watch. I watch my kids in their soccer games and that is it. But since this book has "A Pilots Hockey Novel" on it and features a hockey player as the hero, well...it kinda needed more hockey

This ebook-only story is category length, so I'm assuming it's supposed to be light on details, but even so...you'd think it would be centered around hockey. Not so. It's centered around a family grocery business which recently expanded to include a gift shop.  The narrator is our heroine, Gaby Bertucci, whose family has run the business in Detroit for generations, and she has a major crush on minor league hockey player Landon Taylor.  She flirts with him whenever he visits the store, but nothing happens until her father collapses of a heart attack while Landon is there. His quick thinking and calm presence force their interactions beyond the generic pleasantries they normally exchange and open the door for more.


Quickie Review: Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: May 2016
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 308 pages

As the conclusion of the Black Blade trilogy, this book did its job, wrapping up various threads in a neat and tidy way. For me, it was almost TOO tidy.  Warning: there be (minor) spoilers ahead.

Overall, I think the first person, past POV works to the series' advantage, but in this book? I think it really hurt being able to connect deeply with the action. Lila is pretty inured to violence and death, but there's A LOT of death in this book. A lot of gruesome stuff. And she just doesn't spend a lot of time or emotion on it. It might be consistent with her character, but I think it hurts the overall impact of the story to have her not really be affected by some of the things that happen, and because we experience the story through her, we don't really get a lot of time with the other characters' reactions, either.

I really enjoyed the monsters in this book...probably more than in the other books. They had a more central role, and made it feel much more like an Urban Fantasy novel this time around. There's plenty of action and drama to make up for the lack of romance, though, and this is probably the most action-packed of the three books.

My only disappointments were that this does not stand alone (at all!) and that it skirts any really deep emotion. I wanted a bit more angst, which this book just didn't deliver.

My Grade: B-
The Blurb:

As a thief, I’m good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls.
Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families—and kill every last Sinclair. What they don’t know is that I’m on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom get away with hurting all the other people I care about. Especially when I’ve got places to break into, stuff to steal, and Devon Sinclair fighting right by my side…


Hump Day Classic Movie: Dead Ringer (1964)

Dead Ringer is a creepy movie.
It's not the first time Bette Davis played a twin, but this performance is extra eerie. The plot is pretty straight forward: estranged twin sisters meet again at the funeral of the person who caused their estrangement: one sister's husband, whom she stole from the other.

After finding out that her sister had lied about being pregnant to steal her love away, the other sister plans an elaborate revenge: she kills her sister (faking suicide) and assumes her glamorous life.

With today's modern gore standards, this is fairly tame. It's the intimate undressing of her dead sister's body that really bothered me. She strips the stockings from her dead sister's legs, and switches clothes.

She soon finds out that pretending to be her sister is harder than it appears, and the deception begins to unravel...only to have a surprise twist at the end.

The first half of the movie is masterful...the second half isn't all that great. Still worth watching, though!


RT Booklovers Convention 2016 Recap

I'll start out by prefacing this with the fact that I'm not a Vegas kinda girl. It does absolutely nothing for me. So when I first heard that the convention was going to be in Vegas, I was going to skip it. I knew everyone would want to go there and that it would be crowded. I should have gone with my gut.

That's not to say that there weren't some high points, like seeing my online friends in person, but overall, this was by far the worst RT I've been to (out of the 5 total I have attended.)

The Good:

There were some good panels: the ones about diversity and feminism were especially well done.
The Book Fair was well organized and the smoothest I've experienced. Check in for the convention was open early, well staffed, and easy to find. Security was present and for the most part did pay attention to who had badges and who didn't. There were several good restaurants on site that were able to handle the huge crush of people and the food was decently priced. Not great, but not as bad as other RTs.

@younglibrarian, @SuperWendy, and me
Christine Feehan

The Bad:
The hotel sucked. The walk to the convention space was horrific. There were not enough staff at check in or at the Starbucks. There was a fridge but no microwave or coffee maker in the rooms. The smoke was a problem. And when I say a problem, I'm speaking as someone accustomed to Reno where there are older casinos and older filtration systems. The Rio's was substandard. And the bar... The bar was a huge disappointment. The highlight of every RT is hanging out in the bar with a gradually changing group of authors, readers, and bloggers, but the location of the Rio's bar in smoke central (and the laughably inadequate bar in the convention area) meant many of us missed out on that unofficial social part of RT. And, of course, there was the fact that by Saturday, our sink was backing up with water any time the toilet flushed.

TBR Challenge Review: My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: December 2015
Publisher: Forever/Hachette
Length: 323 pages

Jill Shalvis is one of the few remaining auto-buy authors I have. But since I'm still digging my way out of the reading slump from hell, I am just now getting around to reading this one. I bought it, then set it in my TBR to get to eventually. I brought this with me to the RT Booklover's Convention, intending to finish it and get my post up ASAP when I got back before our April 20th deadline. Ha. Ha. I knew better. So anyway, my tardy post follows.

This month's theme was contemporary romance, and Jill Shalvis is one of the best at the small town variety. She and Victoria Dahl are pretty much the ONLY authors who can pull off the small town romances and not have me nitpick them. And I suspect it's because both authors live in relatively small ski/tourist towns, so they don't ignore the irritating fishbowl-ness that is small town life.


Review: The Knave of Hearts by Elizabeth Boyle

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pub Date: February 2016
Publisher: Avon (Harper Collins)
Length: 372 pages
POV: 3rd, past.
FTC: Purchased myself

This is probably the least original set up I've read in a long time, but I still ended up enjoying this book enough to read it in one day. Twin sister is ruined when a drunk rake releases her in the middle of a dance, causing her to knock over several dancers and effectively ruin her chances. Rake responsible then bets a horrible jerk that he can restore her reputation and make her a "Diamond."  I must have read something similar a dozen times at least. Despite that, I found the book engaging and fun.

Boyle's style has always been light, but her newer books seem to have veered even further into that category. I'm not sure if Avon as a whole has been steering the ship in that direction, or if it's just my favorite authors. I wanted just a teensy bit more angst in this. Some true pain. Even so, it's not a bad book by any means.

My main issue is that I felt like I was missing some crucial subtext that (maybe?) were in other books in the series.  Also, I felt like Tuck's sacrifice for his family was completely glossed over in a throw away sentence or two. It was a vital part of his ruined reputation, his break with Wakefield, but Lavinia and the reader are told only the scant basics at the very end of the novel.

Overall a fun—but not really deep—story. Sometimes that's all you need.

My Grade: B

The Blurb:
In the fifth novel of the captivating Rhymes With Love series from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Boyle, a young woman's hopes of a match encounter a wickedly handsome complication . . .
Lavinia Tempest has been eagerly anticipating a spectacular season. But one disastrous pile-up on the Almack's dance floor derails all her plans. Add to that, the very stunning revelations about her mother's scandalous past have become the ton's latest on dits. Lavinia's future has gone from shining bright to blackest night in one misstep.
Alaster "Tuck" Rowland admits he's partly to blame for Lavinia's disastrous debut. But it's not guilt that compels him to restore her reputation. Rather, he's placed a wager that he can make Lavinia into one of the most sought-after ladies in London. Who better than an unrepentant rake to set society astir?
Tuck's motives are hardly noble. But in teaching the lovely Lavinia how to win any man she wants, he suddenly finds himself tangled in the last place he ever imagined: in love.


TBR Challenge Review: The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: September 2015
Publisher: St. Martins
Length: 356 pages
FTC: Received for free at RT15

This month's theme is recommended read, and this was a book that was receiving a ton of buzz on social media and at the convention last year. As usual with highly talked about books: this one did not live up to expectations. No surprise there.

I can see why people liked the book. I mean, it definitely is different than the overwhelming majority of today's historical romance. Very much in the style of Elizabeth Hoyt. But...what starts out as a great, gritty, highly emotional story veers way too deeply into melodrama for my personal preference. The first few chapters are amazingly good, but the rest of the book fails to live up to that promise.


DNF Mini review: Lay it Down by Cara McKenna

FTC: Received for free at RT
I call this "The Book The Red Dirt Killed." It was fine. The characters were fine. The plot was okay. The setting was decent. But over and over again, McKenna described the soil out in BFE Nevada as "red." IT'S NOT RED.  It's an unrelenting grayish, alkaline brown. So over and over again, I had to shake that incredibly wrong mental image out of my head. Nevada isn't the reddish desert of the Southwest—at least not outside Las Vegas—and having that one detail that seemed so important to the hero be so wrong? It ruined a promising book. I put this down after reading halfway through and have zero desire to pick it up again. Bummer. In this case, I think choosing a specific, real location might have worked better. Maybe there is a spot in the middle of Nevada that's red, but I've driven across northern Nevada to Utah and from Reno to LA. I lived in Nevada for 7 years. It's brown.


Review: Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Pub Date: November 2015
Publisher: Kensington
Format: Trade Paperback
Length: 368 pages
FTC: Requested from the library
POV: 1st person, past

I've generally avoided YA because I have a YA in the house and can't handle a ton more drama, but this series has me hooked. My only issue with this book, and it's a biggie, is the tournament. I think Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ruined me for all other tournaments. It's not fair, but there it is. I can't read about tournaments, especially involving magic, without thinking of that book. Or the Court Jester. Yes...I'm weird.

The 2nd book in a series often has a tough job. It's subject to a bit of a sophomore slump, in that it doesn't have to build the world, but it has to move the characters forward. Luckily, that's exactly what happens here. Every character has more revealed about them. Lila, our narrator (in 1st person, past TYVM), has some significant character growth both in maturity and in depth. Her relationships with everyone grow and change, and she seems to be slowly figuring out who she is and what she wants.


TBR Challenge Review: Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pub: Grand Central/Hachette
Pub Date: November 2015
Length: 328 pages
 POV: 3rd/past
FTC: Purchased myself

I'm afraid to say that I've beaten the reading slump that has plagued me for the last few years, but...I think I've finally beaten the damn thing!!!  So I joined the TBR Challenge again, which I'm hoping doesn't jinx it.  It's ok to sign up late if you want to join in!

I'm perpetually behind on the Maiden Lane series, despite the fact that I ALWAYS enjoy them. I'm not sure why this is, except to say that the books are usually quite emotionally draining, and I just can't glom them.Of course, of all of the books I've read so far, this one was my least favorite. Which still isn't all that bad, when the bar is set so high.


Review: Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: March 2014
Publisher: Avon
Length: 400
FTC: Received for free at an RT Convention

I'm not really sure why I stopped reading Eloisa James. Part of it was likely just a result of my 18-month-long reading slump, but I really do like her books. I always have. This one has my kryptonite, though: lots of letters. I'm a sucker for an epistolary novel done right, and this one is fabulous.

The setup is classic historical romance: wealthy man needs perfect, well-born bride to buy his way into legitimacy only to discover his perfect bride-to-be is utterly boring. What makes this one shine is the chemistry and wit throughout. There's snappy banter and then there's this book. The barbs are extremely clever...sometimes double or triple layered in meaning.  I mean, so pointed that I was laughing out loud, and not in an easy, slapstick way.


Review: Deadly Spells by Jaye Wells

Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: February 2015
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 400 pages
FTC: Ordered through our library's Zip Books program

It took me awhile to convince my poor library to order this book. Primarily because they were convinced it wasn't out yet. New Year's is hard on everyone, librarians included. We're closing in on a year since this book's release, so I'm hoping to hear more about the series. If it's continuing. If this was it. I haven't looked it up yet, but this book does tie up some loose ends, so it may be the finale.


Review: Coveted by Shawntelle Madison

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: May 2012
Publisher: Ballantine/Random House
Length: 291 pages
FTC: Received for free at an RT Convention

My friend, Sandy, urged me to read this book when I first picked up my copy at an RT Convention (I honestly can't remember which one!) I promised her I would...and of course it's been at least 1 year, but maybe 3 since I've had the book and haven't read it. Well..I'm digging out print books from my TBR and it was this book's time.

I admit, if I'd known this was about an OCD hoarding werewolf, I might have tried it earlier. Because honestly? That's unusual, even in the land of strange. 


Hump Day Classic Movie: The Great Escape

It's been a long time since I've posted a classic movie rec because I've been busily "binge" watching Supernatural. The quotes are because my internet sucks, so I'm binge-ing old school via DVDs. Anyway, I finally got far enough into my queue for some classics to pop back up, and I discovered The Great Escape.

I'm normally not a war movie kind of gal, so it's easy to see how I missed this one. But wowza! That cast! Even if you're not a movie buff, you've likely heard of some of them. Richard Attenborough (Hammond from Jurassic Park), Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, David McCallum (Duckie on NCIS), James Coburn, James Garner, Donald Pleasence (The psychiatrist from Halloween)...

If you're a happy movie only kind of person, this is not the movie for you. There is lots of humor, but there are several sad parts and the ending is not overly optimistic...Of course, it's based on real events, so that is completely to be expected.

My only real issue was how long the movie was. The pacing was excruciating. I'm glad I watched it, though, and if you haven't seen it, you should! 


Review: Too Wicked To Love by Debra Mullins

Format: Mass market
Pub Date: June 2011
Publisher: Avon
Length: 375 pages
FTC: Purchased used but don't remember where

I've read and enjoyed Debra Mullins in the past, but sadly, this book was just not that great. It is the worst sort of wallpaper romance: thin setting, flighty and shallow women characters, and anachronistic language throughout. Worse, though, is that I simply didn't care about the characters.

I'm a character-driven reader.  I like to get in their heads and be shown their emotions. I want to feel their anguish, uncertainty, passion, fear...I got none of that from anyone here. We're told that our hero, John Ready, is anguished about his choices, but we're never shown. Every emotion is told to us in a way that doesn't let us experience it, and that weakens what should have been a fun, memorable story. The author does a little better with the heroine, but we're still very much on the outside looking in...

This was the blandest romance I've read in years, despite the presence of two highwaymen, a surprise duke, and an "outspoken" heroine. There was no tension at all between anyone. Maybe it's because this comes at at the end of several interconnected novels, but the villain is only menacing in a mustache-twirling kind of way, and the hero isn't really all that heroic. Just a big pile of MEH for me, which is disappointing in the first historical romance I've read this year.

My Grade: D


German Chocolate Macaroons

This was a Facebook find, via Pinterest, that my husband insisted I make for Christmas. He's a hard core macaroon fan (not to be confused with macaron). These are sweet, chewy, nutty, and pretty much the perfect coconut macaroon. They aren't difficult to make, but they are very time-consuming. So time consuming that I was way too tired to haul out the real camera and take fussy photos. This is my iPhone. Sorry. :)

The source recipe is from Chef in Training.

5⅓ cups shredded sweetened coconut (two of the smaller size bags)
¾ cup sugar
6 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
5 egg whites
1 cup finely chopped pecans (Calls for toasted, but they were fine untoasted)
Chocolate topping
Melt 4 ounces sweet chocolate (The Baker's kind)
1 tablespoon shortening
Sweetened condensed milk topping
6 ounces sweetened condensed milk (I just did the whole 14 oz can because I had no use for a partial can.)